The palliative care program at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital is the first in Texas to be certified by DNV GL Healthcare, one of the world’s leading risk management/quality assurance organizations. The designation recognizes excellence in both quality care and patient safety.


Palliative care is specialized medical and nursing care for people with chronic conditions. It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms, pain, physical stress and mental stress at any stage of illness, to improve quality of life for both the patient and their family.


“Palliative care is a complex specialty because we are engaged with patients who are dealing with symptoms and side effects from a broad range of serious illnesses and treatments, as well as family members who are often overwhelmed by their loved one’s situation,” said Asha Wurdeman, D.O., director of the hospital’s palliative care program. “That complexity requires a unique level of knowledge, expertise, skill and compassion. This certification demonstrates that our palliative care program, and our caregivers, are meeting and exceeding the high standards set for our profession – and most importantly, we are making a significant, positive impact on the patients and families we serve.”


To determine whether a hospital qualifies for certification, DNV GL Healthcare evaluates responses and data from a written survey and conducts an on-site visit by a qualified assessor. 


Houston Methodist Sugar Land introduced its palliative care service in April 2018, and it quickly made a positive impact.


“One of the keys to our acceptance has been our ongoing efforts to educate the medical staff and patients and their families about the important role we play,” said Wurdeman. “Once people recognize that our service helps seriously ill patients and their loved ones during what is an extremely stressful and difficult time, they are extremely grateful. Palliative care is a relatively new specialty, but there is growing recognition of the value that it brings.”


Although palliative care is sometimes used in end-of-life situations, it also can be helpful in alleviating the challenges involved in ongoing treatment for chronic conditions, such as pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, loss of appetite, anxiety or depression. The palliative care team works alongside the patient’s physician to coordinate care and arrange for supportive resources, such as the hospital’s social workers and chaplains.


“The palliative care team’s positive impact on our patients and their family members has been immeasurable,” said Ranganath Kandala, M.D., a Houston Methodist Sugar Land hospitalist. “There has been a paradigm shift in how we support patients with chronic illnesses and family members who are making end-of-life decisions. The palliative care team here is invaluable.”